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Saturday, April 10, 2004

We were woken up around six today (probably a little earlier than that) for our trip to Pagsanjan, Laguna. It's this historic town around two hours drive down south famous for its spectacular waterfall and the rapids one has to go through before seeing it among others. My mom had arranged a package tour with my older brother's churchmate, Alex. The guy specializes with these things and he has come up with a special package that includes a van with a driver, going up to the falls, lunch in his specially made floating gazebo, afternoon snacks, and driving us back up. If we were a little early in leaving he would have included a special tour of the country's National Hero, Jose Rizal's house in Calamba and a little side trip to nearby San Pablo City to watch a dog show. Hmmm... Not bad.

We arrived some two and half hours later since everyone in Manila was scrambling to the resorts dotting Laguna to salvage whatever precious time was left in the holiday. When we got there we entered this somewhat old house at the back of which was the river where the floating gazebo was situated. Ours was just one of the resorts dotting the riverbanks including one put up by a Korean for Koreans (which composed the bulk of tourists at the time). We were served some suman (sweet sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves like a mummy) and fresh yellow mangoes. These large mangoes were so perfectly yellow it was almost golden and the taste was perfectly balanced between tart and sweet making my mouth water just by looking at them.


One part of the floating gazebo where we stayed.

After some twenty minutes our bankeros arrived and the four of us were split into two boats, me and my sister in one and my dad and mom in the other. The one mistake that I made was to let my sister sit in front of me and because of a recent visit to the dermatologist, who advised her against harmful exposure to the sun, she brought this umbrella that kept blocking all the views on the way to the waterfall that would have made some great shots. But it wasn't a total loss, we changed seats halfway through our destination and the view was still as spectacular as ever making one realize that God spared no details in making everything so impressive even in isolated places where man rarely sets foot in. The trees growing on the side of the cliffs, the small plants carperting the ground and the fauna was just as I remembered them when I last went there as a kid. There were these unusual black dragonflies flying low over the waters of the river. They had black wings with luminous blue or gold parts in the center. I tried to take some pictures of these insects whenever they landed somewhere near our banca but they were skittish to every small movement making it impossible to do so. I haven't seen these in any other parts of the provinces we've been and it seems exclusive to this area alone.


Mom and dad enjoying the banca ride.


Hehehe... an irregular Vincent Van Gogh


Lifting and pushing the boats through the rocks

The bankeros went very hard at work whenever we passed by small passages between boulders and rocks and the presence metal bars wedged in between some of them, acting like steps whenever the way became steeper than usual, helped share the load unlike before. After one rest stop where we treated them to some sodas we finally arrived at the world famous Pagsanjan Falls.


Korean and Japanese tourists going to and from the falls


Spectacular view on the way back

I was the only one in our group to approach the falls. I wanted to for the longest time and quite an experience that was. Since I didn't bring a change of clothes with me, I took off my shirt, put the water jacket back on and just left my pants to get wet. Who cares? Right? I brought my digital camera with me and took shots of the approach, behind the falls and on the way back. Though I was alone in going towards the falls, we picked up a group of local tourists on the way back from behind it (apparently you could stay behind and swim around for a while behind the falls). The boatmen even stopped the raft underneath the rushing waters, the experience of which was like spending some time underneath a really hard rainstorm.


Approaching one of the few rest stops beside the river


Mmmm-mmm... Now that's what I call well done!

We went back right to the gazebo after that raft ride. We were told to hurry up to be able to avoid the traffic of tourists that could amount to two hours travel time if it got real bad. It was nearly lunch time and we couldn't wait to get out of the sun. Except for the straw hats which were provided for us (God bless their kind hearts!) we haven't got a prayer against the prickly sun which was turning all the exposed parts of our bodies reddish pink. Some thirty minutes later we finally arrived back at the gazebo where a hearty lunch of native cuisine was being served. There were a number of scrumptious grilled pla-pla (medium sized fresh water fish with a wide flat body), delectable grilled egglants, mildly sweet savory bagoong alamang (sauteed shrimp paste) topped with green sili, palatable kare-kare, choice chicken and pork barbecue, all the steaming rice we can eat, mouthwatering mussel soup, more of those exquisite mangoes, and succulent coconuts served in its own shell. Then we rested for about two hours before being served with tall refreshing glasses of halo-halo. After savoring our after dessert-dessert and taking in the view of the peaceful surroundings, we took our leave, thanked our servers profusely and started our way back home. By then the traffic wasn't as bad as it did when we traveled in the morning and we got home just in time before the sun set.

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